After a handful of close losses, TCU gave itself ample breathing room to put away No. 7 West Virginia 82-73 in Fort Worth.
Alex Robinson had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for TCU (14-6, 3-5), which had dropped all 11 previous meetings against the Mountaineers since they became Big 12 neighbors in the 2012-13 season.
Five years ago, in this same arena, Robinson was a high school senior taking his official visit when the Frogs stunned Kansas.
“But boy this feels a whole lot better,” he said as fans poured onto the court Monday night.
TCU’s five league losses had come by five points or fewer, including two in overtime.
“We had lost so many of these, so many opportunities, close games, home games, big crowd, atmosphere,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon after fans lifted him for a victory ride. “Our students deserved this. They were unbelievable. I’m very overwhelmed by that.”
Desmond Bane added 15 points, and Vlad Brodziansky finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, fueling a defense that held West Virginia (16-4, 5-3) without a basket during a game-changing stretch of nearly 10 minutes spanning both halves.
That marked quite a turnaround considering TCU ranked 132nd in KenPom defensive efficiency.
“Bad game,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We’ve spent more time on offense than I’ve spent on offense since I got the job back here. We’re getting open, but we just don’t pass it very well.”
Mountaineers guard Jevon Carter scored 16 points — 10 of them in the final 5 minutes when the visitors angled to climb out of a 20-point deficit. A comeback proved impossible on a night they suffered through 32-percent shooting.
Carter made only 6-of-18 shots, Daxter Miles finished 4-of-14, and Esa Ahmad missed all five attempts in a scoreless effort by the forward who had averaged 13.7 points in his previous three game return from suspension.
The Mountaineers, aiming to stay within a game of Big 12 leader Kansas, led 31-24 with 4:12 left in the half when their shooting turned frigid and their offensive execution faltered. They missed 14 consecutive shots before Miles made a tip-in with 14:29 left in the game.
By that point, TCU had surged ahead 47-34 riding the wave of a 23-3 run.
“We had Esa cut across the lane in the second half and we throw it in the cheerleaders,” Huggins said.
The lead eventually stretched to 66-46, the Frogs undaunted by the ejection of forward Kouat Noi.
The sixth man had 13 points when he was dealt a flagrant 2 foul for shoving down Lamont West after the WVU player grabbed Noi from behind on a fast beak.
Even the ejection became a positive for TCU when reserve Shawn Olden stepped in and sank three 3-pointers.
Konate a bright spot
Mountaineers center Sagaba Konate had 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Konate temporarily encountered foul trouble in the first half until replay intervened. His second foul was overturned when officials realized he merely pivoted into a low-post collision with Brodziansky.
After reeling off 11 unanswered points to lead 35-33 at the half, the Frogs nearly had more, but officials waived off Robinson’s 40-foot swish for being a split-second too late.
The play became a sore spot nonetheless for West Virginia, with reserve guard Beetle Bolden dashing head-first into a crushing pick from Brodziansky in the backcourt.
Bolden, the team’s top percentage 3-point shooter, did not return with what the team described as a groin re-injury. He finished with three points after lighting up Texas for 19 on Saturday.
Back from a two-game benching, freshman Teddy Allen played 12 minutes and produced seven points and five rebounds. He shot only 1-of-7 however, with Brodziansky swatting down two attempts at the rim.
Notes, numbers, etc.
Carter dished out seven assists, made five steals and grabbed six rebounds in the loss. … Despite putting up 75 shots to TCU’s 59, the Mountaineers never drew closer than nine points in the final 16 minutes. … TCU led the rebounding 46-40, with Kenrich Williams grabbing 14. They also enjoyed a 24-10 edge in bench scoring. … With Carter and Miles combining to go 1-of-14 from 3-point range, WVU finished 7-of-27 overall. … Since losing point guard Jaylen Fisher to a season-ending knee injury last week, the Frogs have won two of three.
“When we guard, we can beat anybody. We just guarded.” — Jamie Dixon